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Abolishing the Electoral College May Not Save Us



It’s June of 2031, and Heather Adams-Fernandez is preparing to announce her candidacy for the Republican nomination for President. At her campaign headquarters, a graphic of the U.S. hangs on the wall, but the states aren’t colored in red, blue, or purple. A decade earlier, the country transitioned to a national popular vote to elect the president, so the map now shows vote totals weighted by population density and margin of victory. It’s a distorted, chaotic mix of colors and shapes that, to a previous generation, is barely recognizable as the United States, but it’s the new political reality.

However, before Adams-Fernandez can draft her domestic policy, start to vet potential vice presidents, or plan her campaign tour stops, she and her staff must formulate a critical part of her campaign strategy: how to turn out the vote.

The basis for how we elect the President and Vice President of our country, the Electoral College awards delegates by almost each state on a winner-take-all system. But after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by almost three million votes while losing in the College, critics had yet another example of how fundamentally undemocratic it is. For the second time since 2000, the president was chosen not just by a minority of voters, but also by a system that was created as a compromise with slave-owning Southern states and which still dilutes the influence of minority voters.

So what should be done? Abolishing the Electoral College outright would require a constitutional amendment, an unlikely political feat in the current environment, but there is another way. If states representing a majority of the Electoral College votes sign onto The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and agree to allocate their votes to whoever wins the national popular vote, not just their state, the College would essentially be nullified. As of July 2020, jurisdictions representing 196 electoral votes have signed on, 74 below the needed threshold.

This switch to a national popular vote would fundamentally transform our politics, and for critics of the Electoral College, it would be for the better: increased turnout, a structural advantage for progressives, and fairer, more equitable election laws. But as is often the case in politics, an uncertain future reality may be more complicated than it appears.

New Rules, Same Apathy: Turnout might stay the same

It seems obvious that a national popular vote would increase voter turnout. After all, think of the millions of voters who stay home because their vote is wasted under the states’ winner-take-all systems: the Republicans in blue states, like California and Massachusetts, and the Democrats in red states, like Wyoming and West Virginia.

But voters aren’t necessarily motivated by how close the race is in their state, said Bernard Fraga, a political scientist at Emory College who wrote a book on the turnout gap between white voters and voters of color. “It would make a lot of sense, in theory, that turnout would increase in more competitive contexts, but the data suggests that in recent elections, the effect is small and difficult to measure.”

If turnout were dependent on how competitive a state was, you’d expect it to be highest in the swing states. In 2016, that was the case for Minnesota and New Hampshire—number one and two for turnout—and for Wisconsin, number five. But after that, the trend falls off. Massachusetts and Maryland, with some of the largest margins for Hillary Clinton, had higher turnouts than Virginia, Michigan, and North Carolina. After that, Pennsylvania was 20th, Ohio was 21st, and Nevada was 38th.

In 2016, the relationship was especially weak in Florida, the swing state with the most Electoral College votes, more than New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada combined. In addition to voting for president, the Sunshine State also had competitive races for Senate and Governor and spent more money on political advertising than any other state—$133 million for its 14.6 million eligible voters. That year, it ranked 14th in turnout.

Even Minnesotans, the gold-standard for turnout, aren’t necessarily motivated by the prospect of razor-thin margins. In the past few presidential election cycles, as the state has become more competitive, turnout has dropped. And if you look at where each vote matters most—defined as the state where an individual voter has the greatest chance of determining an Electoral College vote—then turnout should be highest in Wyoming. It was 30th.

So what does predict turnout? There’s a variety of useful metrics, including age, income, race, previous voting behavior, and what Professor Fraga calls “political socialization”—living in a microculture where others vote and prioritize civic engagement. Turnout could also be affected by the barriers to casting a ballot, which includes both the laws—ID requirements, voter roll purges, requiring an excuse to vote by mail—and the issue of accessibility, like the 1,600-plus poll sites that have been closed since the Supreme Court neutered the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

With 100 million people habitually not voting, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the democratic world, and it’s comforting to believe that our voters stay home because of an abstract calculus about whether their vote matters under the Electoral College (ignoring the fact that we vote for more than just president every four years).

However, the reality is that they may not have the time, not know when or how to vote, not feel informed enough, not trust that their vote will be counted, or may just believe that politicians are full of shit and it doesn’t matter either way. Regardless, low turnout won’t be solved by abolishing the Electoral College.

Class Is the New Fault-line: The Republican party would likely change their platform to court new demographics

It’s April of 2032. Having clinched the Republican nomination and formulated her get-out-the-vote plan, Adams-Fernandez refines her policy platform, which is tailored to the urban and suburban voters who compose her base. Because they largely agree on social issues, she doesn’t mention reproductive justice or trans inclusion in high school sports. Instead, she focuses on a formerly obscure issue that has fired up her rallies: the state and local income tax deduction. Based largely on this issue, she’s polling even with her Democratic opponent.

The Electoral College currently benefits Republicans, and though some conservatives support its abolition, it’s mostly progressives leading the charge (just look at a map of which states have signed onto the The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact). However, if we switched to a national popular vote, the left may be unpleasantly surprised by the results.

“The Republican Party is able to survive as a minority party,” said Jonathan Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford who wrote a book about the geographic distribution of political preferences. “It consistently receives fewer votes in presidential and Senate elections, but they can win those elections. So, the incentives for them are to structure their appeals in the way that they have. If the incentives change, parties need to adapt in order to win.”

In other words, switching to a national popular vote would change the incentives—but not necessarily in a way that would make our politics more progressive. Instead, Republicans might use fiscal issues to lure ostensibly liberal voters away from the Democratic Party. For example, Professor Rodden points to the shortage of affordable housing in California, where the median price for a home is $600,000, twice the national average, and which has four of the country’s five most expensive residential markets—Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.

“There are a lot of people who express progressive positions on a lot of things,”  Rodden said, “but they’re very opposed to the construction of new housing that would make the place more affordable. They want to protect their property values.”

Similarly, Republicans could tempt progressive voters in cities and suburbs with changes to the tax code. Professor Rodden brings up two examples: the mortgage interest deduction, a $90 billion subsidy that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, incentivizes them to buy larger homes, and exacerbates the housing crisis; and the state and local tax deduction, which is another backdoor tax break for the middle-class and rich, especially those in places with a high cost of living.

In 2017, roughly 30 percent of taxpayers took advantage of the state and local tax deduction, and 32 million households claimed the mortgage interest deduction, a large pool of voters in the income brackets most likely to vote. However, that year Republicans enacted legislation that limited both. This, Professor Roden said, accounts for Democrats’ recent success in high-income suburban districts in New Jersey and Southern California.

Under a national popular vote, Republicans could pivot and appeal to these voters—as could the Democrats. As Professor Rodden said, “Sometimes, the party platform is what the wealthy donors say it should be.”

A Nationwide Effort to Suppress: The parties behind voter restrictions will find new methods to discourage the voters who don’t support them

It’s October of 2032. Still running in a dead heat against her opponent, Adams-Fernandez amasses an army of poll watchers and election lawyers prepared to contest certain ballots, challenge the results, and initiate a recount if necessary. Where the campaign used to focus on a few counties in Florida or Pennsylvania, they now fan out in cities and suburbs across the United States to enforce the voting restrictions that their party has passed over the preceding decade.

The reason that the election administrator’s prayer is “Lord, let this election not be close” is that making democracy work is difficult. Boards of election are often under-resourced and under-staffed, and even when there isn’t a pandemic, recruiting, training, and adequately paying poll workers is a constant concern. When a race isn’t close, relatively minor mistakes go unnoticed, but they could easily be further weaponized to tilt the election in favor of one party.

For example, Michigan law prohibits a precinct from recounting any votes if there’s an unexplained discrepancy between the number of ballots that were tabulated by the scanner and the number of voters recorded in the poll books. During the statewide recount in 2016, this provision reportedly excluded 60 percent of the precincts in Detroit from being recounted, letting stand the original results. This isn’t surprising; urban centers serve more voters, so errors are more likely. 

While this law wasn’t originally intended to exclude urban voters, it serves as a model for how states, which write most of their own voting laws, can use seemingly neutral rules to target certain groups, especially those that live in areas that are heavily minority, where voting wait times are already longer and absentee ballots are more often rejected.

And for the same reason that the Electoral College benefits Republicans, it also favors them in state legislatures, which may be fully controlled by the GOP even in states with large numbers of Democrats. That’s the case in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. In Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, and Texas, the governors are also Republican.

Of course, we could always improve our election administration. Instead of conducting recounts, we could rely on risk-limiting audits. Instead of prohibiting counties from tabulating absentees until Election Day, we could allow for pre-processing. Instead of gutting the Voting Rights Act, we could pass a new one.

But voting laws in this country often reflect partisan concerns, not practical ones, and whether they’re supported by facts or written in bad-faith is irrelevant. Widespread voter fraud is a myth, yet, even during a pandemic, it props up voter ID laws, prohibitions on ballot collection, and even restrictions on how many absentee drop boxes a county can have.

Plus, well-intentioned laws can have unforeseen consequences. After the 2000 election fiasco, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which mandated that if someone is told that she can’t vote at a poll site, she can request a provisional ballot, the eligibility of which is later determined. This was a landmark law that’s enfranchised millions of people—but has also been exploited by states like Georgia, which use what should be a failsafe to essentially force citizens to vote twice.

These aren’t reasons to keep the Electoral College. It must go, but changing something as important as the rules for electing the president will have profound and unintended consequences. In 2013, Senate Democrats eliminated the 60-vote threshold for executive appointments and federal judges, paving the way for Trump to stack the judiciary, which is now voting to uphold restrictions on voting.

When it comes to reform, we have to temper our expectations. Abolishing the Electoral College has become a vessel for our fantasies and misconceptions about politics, election laws, and voter behavior. If we focus only on sexy, structural change, and ignore the boring minutia of tax deductions and recount laws, we’re bound to be disappointed by the results.

Follow Spenser Mestel on Twitter.


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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year



(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.


Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.


Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.


Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.


Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.


Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.


Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.


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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained



Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year



From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.


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